In an unprecedented resolution, the majority of the Spain football team has decided to rescind their boycott, according to Victor Francos, secretary of state for sports. The accord was established at 05:00 local time on Wednesday following a marathon seven-hour negotiation session.
According to Francos, the Spanish football federation (RFEF) has pledged to implement “immediate and profound changes”. Unfortunately, however, two of the 23 players set to take part in this month’s Nations League games, Mapi Leon and Patri Guijarro, have chosen to withdraw from the squad.
The internal strife originated after the then RFEF president, Luis Rubiales, engaged in an unsolicited act of public affection with forward Jenni Hermoso in the wake of Spain’s victory over England in the Women’s World Cup final on 20 August. This event, labeled non-consensual by Hermoso, led to an immediate resignation from Rubiales, while Spanish manager Jorge Vilda was dismissed.
Spain is poised to face off against Sweden on Friday and Switzerland on Tuesday. Expressing optimism while addressing the matter, Francos, who also serves as the chief of Spain’s national sports agency (CSD), said, “It is good news to be able to say that the team will play the next two games with assurances.”
According to him, a consensus was reached through “friendly” discussions in Valencia involving the players, RFEF officials, CSD, and the women’s players’ union Futpro. He also stated, “A joint commission will be established between RFEF, CSD and players to monitor the agreements, which will be signed tomorrow.”
In their grievances, the players have emphasized the necessity for significant changes in the RFEF, which has committed to making these changes immediately. Francos clarified that Leon and Guijarro would not face any penalties for their decision, describing it “absolutely respectable”. There was a chance that players might face fines or a ban from Spain for ignoring their international duty.
Guijarro and Leon were among 15 players who had boycotted the national team prior to the World Cup in protest of coach Vilda’s tactics. They did not partake in the summer’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand. Leon positively commented on the changes underway, stating, “we are giving full support to our team-mates.”
Similarly, Guijarro acknowledged the work being done on necessary changes, although recognizing their unique personal situation. Montse Tome, the newly appointed head coach, selected 15 players from the World Cup squad for the Nations League games. However, following the announcement, the players declared the boycott was still in effect.
In response, the CSD announced the establishment of a commission tasked with overseeing the agreed changes, focusing on equality policies, fair pay enhancements and improvements in the infrastructure of women’s sport. Later, the RFEF confirmed both the men’s and women’s Spanish national teams would unite under a single logo and branding: Seleccion Espanola de Futbol, translating to ‘Spanish national team’.
In reaction to this, Pedro Rocha, RFEF management commission president, stated that this signified more than a symbolic step, but a commitment to the idea that football is an egalitarian sport. Adding to this, Futpro president Amanda Gutierrez concurred, “The players see it as a rapprochement of positions. The vast majority have decided to stay for the sake of this agreement. It is the beginning of a long road ahead of us.”
In keeping with the developments, the Spanish players arrived at a training camp in Valencia on Tuesday. When queried about the situation, decorated midfielder Alexia Putellas responded, “Well, bad.” Amidst ongoing legal tension, Rubiales is now legally banned from approaching Hermoso within a 200 meter radius, following her legal complaint. In his first court appearance on Friday, he rejected all allegations of assault towards Hermoso.